Published: Saturday February 16, 2013 MYT 6:52:00 PM
Updated: Saturday February 16, 2013 MYT 10:59:27 PM
Hisham hopes armed group will be deported soon
KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines on Saturday called for a peaceful resolution to the stand-off between Malaysian security forces and a group of gunmen claiming to be followers of the heir of the Sulu Sultanate.
The group, estimated at 200 with dozens believed to be armed, landed by boat near Lahad Datu in Sabah from the neighbouring Philippines on Tuesday.
President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte told AFP on Saturday that the safety of the Filipinos was the government's main concern as Malaysian armed forces and police have locked down the area.
"The primary concern now is their safety and to resolve the incident peacefully," Valte said in a radio interview in Manila.
She said the Philippines had received assurance from Malaysia that the government would encourage the group, which Manila has yet to identify, to leave the area peacefully.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told Bernama that the group would be deported back to the Philippines as soon as possible.
He said discussions were in progress between the relevant parties to avoid any untoward incidents, included bloodshed.
However, he said he could not furnish details on the discussions and that any latest development on the matter would be announced by the Sabah police chief.
"Based on intelligence sources, they are not from a militant or terrorist group. They are supporters of the Sulu Sultanate and I hope, and pray, that they can be deported soon," he added.
Hishammuddin also hit out at those who spread false information and speculation on the matter, including on Sabah's security, as well as the rights and status of the Sabah people.
"The government will not compromise on the rights and security of the people of Sabah," he added.
Philippines claim on Sabah a thorn in relations
Sulu Sultan called in to help
Group claims royal Sulu ties, says IGP
Gunmen want recognition, will only leave if demands are met
Police have back-up plan if negotiations with armed group in Lahad Datu stall
Manila urges gunmen in Lahad Datu to return home
Life as usual for 5,000 villagers amid armed standoff
IGP: Armed men in Lahad Datu followers of 'a descendent of Sultan of Sulu'